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Denise Lockwood
by Denise Lockwood

When Roberto Torres started producing music in 1997, he always dreamed of having a group of producers and songwriters that were strong. And four years ago, that’s how the Beat Council was formed. As they produced a track here and there, the industry rated their music highly, but only a few labels picked up a song or two.

Growing increasingly frustrated, they started their own project and just released 12 tracks under the Beat Council label called Crown. The music is being self-distributed by Distrokid for one year.

“I figured that once the world heard what we were doing, I know it’s a matter of time,” Torres said. “I knew I had superstars that no one knew. I had a handful of diamonds that no one ever bothered to pick up. I had gold that nobody bothered to sift. I had platinum that nobody bothered to shine.”

A pastor, Torres also made sure to anchor the music around this central theme, that one’s talents should not be wasted, and using those talents could help heal their collective brokenness. Some of the men — all under the age of 32 — had survived homelessness, racism, and sexual abuse.

“I had the most overlooked people that nobody bothered to pay attention to, that people laughed at… that people never took seriously. And I knew if I could just provide production that was at an extremely high level, that it would work.”

The project will be available through multiple streaming services and will be available for purchase through Amazon and iTunes.

The core of Beat Council

Made up of eight artists, the emphasis of the Beat Council is on making great music that gives voice to their brokenness, successes, fears, and passion of the group. There’s a grit to some of these tunes while others yield to an authentic softness. But what is clear is their faith, courage to having the world hear their stories, and commitment to success.

Members of Beat Council include: Shane “Shane Grene” Radovan, Runeld “Rune Will” Williams, Kiondre “KG” Graham, Ryan “The Underdog” Schultz, Hollice “Black Shinobi” McNeely, Armon Wilkes, Obadiah Bennett, Frost B, Samuel “I Am” Alford, Tyler “Tommy Conquest” Eschmann, and Torres. John “Johnny Franchino” Helm and Curtis Crump Jr. are also regular collaborators and Beat Council affiliates.

Afterall, as a pastor, Torres also ministered to their souls.

Shane Radovan

Radovan started a movement in 2016 called We Are One, but had lost so much when he started working on Crown. In 2017, he lost his cameraman and other friends to drugs. His girlfriend had broken up with him and he was in

Racine visiting family when he met up with Torres.

“He (Torres) reaches out,” Radovan said. “Every time I sit and talk with these guys, they know me better than I know me… They started treating me like family.”

Seeing the effort that everyone else was putting into the project inspired him.

“To see everyone so committed and have so much effort put in, it’s something I’ve preached on people but never got back out of people and now it’s just effortlessly being thrown at me… it’s awesome.”

Rune Will and Kiondre Graham

Rune Will and Torres had both done some touring. The two musicians had major industry placements, but nothing seemed to materialize. So they started Beat Council. They started writing music, pitching them to artists and taking the music to the industry. And they found Kiondre Graham, who was working at Walmart at the time. Will and Graham did a video called Raise A Toast, which features the Beat Council members.

Will, who was also working at Walmart, was on the outs of doing music, he said.

“There were family things going on and I said, I just want to do one small last project,” he said.

At the time, Will had worked with Torres and when Graham got involved with Beat Council, they started working on the project. They started going to Torres church and he was surprised that Torres knew about producing music.

“And when he started playing beats, I was like… ‘Damn, a pastor that does hip-hop,” he said. “And not only does he rap, he raps good.”

Graham, who serves as the artist and repertoire, has helped bring new people into Beat Council and gets their songs onto different playlists. One of the rappers he brought in was Devonta Wilkerson, whose stage name is Armon Wilkerson. He partnered with him on a song called Work.

Struggling and overcoming

Sam Alford, also known as “I AM,” lives in Milwaukee but he’s moving back to Racine. He’s been homeless. Now he’s a political organizer, working on the Deontre Hamilton campaign and Search for Justice.

But Torres encourage him to rap… all of the time.

“I was preoccupied with equity and justice for people of color,” he said. “To me this project means dignity.”

Want to hear the music? You can pre-order the music on Spotify by clicking on this link:

Denise Lockwood has an extensive background in traditional and non-traditional media. She has written for, the Milwaukee Business Journal, Milwaukee Magazine and the Kenosha News.